Per an email from President John J. DeGioia, Georgetown will move to virtual instruction through Jan. 30, 2022, though undergraduates may still return to their on-campus residences beginning on Jan. 11, and classes will begin as scheduled. All students, faculty, and stuff must get tested for COVID-19 prior to arriving on campus. On Jan. 31, the university plans to transition back to in-person learning, pending public health updates.
The announcement comes after emergency measures at the end of the fall semester, when the university restricted campus life, including moving on-campus dining to a grab-and-go model, which will remain in place for the beginning of the spring semester. Eating and drinking in communal spaces, including libraries, is not allowed and the new guidelines will keep fitness centers on campus closed throughout the virtual instruction period. Students must continue distancing and wearing a high grade mask in indoor spaces that remain open.
During the last week of the fall semester, the university recorded a test positivity rate of 3.08 percent, high in comparison to the semester-long positivity rate. Transmission rose to high levels despite a vaccination rate of 98 percent among Georgetown students and faculty.
The news comes amid a massive spike in D.C. positive cases, turning the city into the most high-risk area in the country, and at a time when the nation as a whole broke its previous record for an all-time high average caseload. While the District’s population is 68.7 percent fully vaccinated, tests remain scarce and Mayor Bowser quickly reinstated the indoor mask mandate she briefly lifted in November. As of Jan. 15, customers must show proof of vaccination at D.C. businesses, beginning with one dose and rising to two the following month.
Other universities have also taken action to move instruction online for part of the spring semester; Harvard University plans to remain virtual for the first three weeks in January before returning students to campus.
DeGioia also announced a booster shot requirement for spring semester faculty, staff, and students going into force on Jan. 21, reflecting the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent guidance on doses for individuals over 18 years of age.
A spokesperson for the university added that Georgetown is working on creating additional chances for students to receive the booster shot on campus, but urged students to seek other opportunities as early as possible. The university set up additional booster shot clinics on the Main Campus and at the Law Center available to all students before the end of the previous semester.
Positive cases will continue to be handled in accordance with D.C. Department of Health guidelines, which include isolating and quarantining any cases regardless of vaccination status.
Most university events will remain virtual or take place outdoors through Jan. 30, and there are greater restrictions on visitors to campus.
Alex Deramo contributed reporting.